Bullying is an intentional behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates a student, either physically or emotionally, and can happen while at school, in the community, or online. Those bullying often have more social or physical “power,” while those targeted have difficulty stopping the behavior. The behavior is typically repeated, though it can be a one-time incident.
Students often describe bullying as when “someone makes you feel less about who you are as a person.”
Bullying can be:
pushing and shoving
yelling at someone
making rude gestures
taking or breaking another person’s things
making fun of someone
laughing at someone
leaving someone out on purpose
starting rumors or telling lies about someone
sending mean messages on a computer or cell phone
trying to make someone feel bad about who they are
Bullying is different from conflict.
Conflict is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views.
Bullying is negative behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person.
Bullying is done with a goal to hurt, harm, or humiliate. With bullying, there is often a power imbalance between those involved, with power defined as elevated social status, being physically larger, or as part of a group against an individual. Students who bully perceive their target as vulnerable in some way and often find satisfaction in harming them.
In normal conflict, children self-monitor their behavior. They read cues to know if lines are crossed, and then modify their behavior in response. Children guided by empathy usually realize they have hurt someone and will want to stop their negative behavior. On the other hand, children intending to cause harm and whose behavior goes beyond normal conflict will continue their behavior even when they know it’s hurting someone.
What is the difference between bullying and harassment?
Bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably when talking about hurtful or harmful behavior. They are very similar, but in terms of definition, there is an important difference.
Bullying and harassment are similar as they are both about:
power and control
actions that hurt or harm another person physically or emotionally
an imbalance of power between the target and the individual demonstrating the negative behavior
the target having difficulty stopping the action directed at them
The distinction between bullying and harassment is that when the bullying behavior directed at the target is also based on a protected class, that behavior is then defined as harassment. Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, age, disability and national origin.
How is “direct bullying” different from “indirect bullying”?
Direct bullying: Behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates and is overt, obvious, and apparent to anyone witnessing it. The actions and words are easy to identify, the identity of the person bullying is usually known, and the acts are directed toward the person being bullied – they know about the bullying as it is happening.
Indirect bullying: Behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates, which is often covert, subtle, and not always immediately acknowledged as bullying. The words and actions can be harder to identify, can be done anonymously and discreetly, and the target might not find out about the bullying until long after it has happened.
Bullying is not a “rite of passage” but a serious threat to student safety and well-being.
Some say bullying makes children tougher and is not a serious problem, but the reality is that students who are bullied are more likely to report increased negative effects to their emotional and physical health.
Students, parents, educators, and communities all have a responsibility to address bullying in schools, on line and in communities.
Education – School avoidance, loss of academic achievement and increase in drop out rates.
Health – Physical and emotional including stomachaches, headaches, sleeping issues, depression, fear or anxiety.
Safety – Harm to self and others, including self-isolation, increased aggression, alienation, and retaliation.
Anyone can bully, and anyone can be bullied.
Bullying is a behavior, not an identity. Labeling as student as a “bully” can have a detrimental effect on their future and often limits their ability to change their behavior (StopBullying.gov, 2016 ).
Students can have multiple roles: they can be the one subjected to bullying and the one who bullies (StopBullying.gov, 2016 ). Strategies that focus on holding students accountable for their behavior – but also empower them to change that behavior – are more effective than punitive punishments and peer mediation in bullying situations.
Any student can exhibit bullying behavior – male or female, popular or un popular, students with good grades, and those who struggle academically. Teachers need to focus on a student’s behavior, not their profile, when determining if bullying occurred.
Bullying isn’t about resolving conflict; bullying is about control.
In conflict, children self-monitor their behavior and generally stop when they realize they are hurting someone.
When bullying, children continue their behavior when they realize it is hurting someone, and are satisfied by a feeling of power and control.
Bullying does not occur between evenly matched opponents; the child bullying has more power in some way than the target (Salmivalli, 2010 ).
Rigby (2008) identifies six of the most common power resources:
Being able to physically hurt others, often due to being superior in size, strength, or physical capabilities.
Being numerically superior, such as a group of three individuals ganging up on one individual.
Being more confident and assertive than others, which can propel someone to directly make fun of another individual without worrying how that will influence themselves or their reputations.
Having superior social or manipulation skills, which can provide the ability to turn people against someone or have them excluded.
Having greater social status and the ability to influence others, or access to embarrassing or private information.
Being able to sophistically threaten or hurt others, such as making fun of someone in a subtle way that goes unnoticed by adults in schools, which allows the bullying to continue.
Bullying directly affects students’ ability to learn.
According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), and to experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety) (Center for Disease Control, Bullying Surveillance Among Youths, 2014).
Bullying affects witnesses as well as targets. Witnesses are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs; have increased mental health problems; and miss or skip school (StopBullying.gov).
Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and experiencing violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Youth who bully others and are bullied themselves suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for mental health and behavioral problems. (Center for Disease Control, 2017).
Bystanders can be powerful allies.
Students have a unique power to prevent bullying. More than half of bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001).
Unfortunately, peer bystanders intervene in bullying less than 20% of the time (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001).
Student bystanders are often aware of situations before adults in the school (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001); it is therefore important that all students feel empowered to intervene safely in bullying situations. A school can facilitate this behavior by cultivating a climate of respect and tolerance within the school. Students should be encouraged to stand up for one another and such behavior should be recognized and rewarded.
Since student bystanders can often intervene most effectively, it’s important for schools to encourage bystander intervention by teaching skills and offering resources that support this behavior. Schools should also seek to ensure that bystanders are protected and students know not to put themselves in danger.
In a recent meta-analysis, it was found that programs are effective at changing bystander intervening behaviors whey there are opportunities for youth to discuss reasons why they might not intervene to help targets, develop understandings of others, and practice effective bystander intervention skills with role-plays (Polanin, Espelage, & Pigott, 2012).
This article was taken from excerpts written onPACER‘s website and reposted with permission. ClickHERE to see PACER’s website. Links for the information in this post can be found on the following website pages: